The Maryland football team, fresh off of a 2-0 start, will not admit that this season is a year of transition – a rebuilding year. But the overall youth of the team, however, would tell a different story. And the addition of a player like Smith could really fit the bill.
“[Smith’s impact on the Terps] is immeasurable,” Lurz said. “I think it kind of showed last year they have a lot of young guys. So I think they’re really trying to build down there.”
And what the Terps offer, according to Lurz, is an excellent coaching staff that can help Smith reach his potential. In return, Smith could be the first step in the right direction for the Terps, potentially changing the whole recruiting scene in the state.
“The staff’s good. I know coach [Don] Brown’s new. Coach [James] Franklin’s really trying to build up the offense to be a competitive offense,” Lurz said. “I think Donovan could make an impact. It’s also when you start to get those huge recruits in state, a couple more ago; then, all of a sudden you got a couple of good in-state classes, you start controlling your own state and you go from there.”
What’s more is that the Terps’ reputation for producing linemen that play on Sunday could be intriguing for Smith, who also desires a professional football career. And with the pro-style offense run by coordinator Franklin, Lurz sees a great match.
Maryland always puts an offensive lineman or two in the NFL, which is something Donovan’s looking for. I know the offensive line coach is a good guy – I think him and Donovan have a good relationship,” Lurz said, referring to the Terps’ most recent alum like Bruce Campbell, Phil Costa and Edwin Jackson. “I think it would be a good fit – the pro-style attack – Donovan would get to run block, pass block, run the pro-style offense – something we do here [at Owings Mills] and he’d be comfortable with.”
But the Terps are not the only team longing for Smith’s services. There are between 10 and 15 teams vying for Smith, including the likes of ACC rivals Virginia, Virginia Tech and North Carolina, as well as Alabama, Rutgers, Penn State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Notre Dame, according to Lurz.
“I know [Maryland head] coach [Ralph] Friedgen actually came in, so I thought it was a big thing when the head man comes in. I talked to both the offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator at Notre Dame – they haven’t offered anything yet but they’re definitely interested,” Lurz said.
“Coach [Anthony] Poindexter has come up a few times from Virginia, [wide receivers] coach [Kevin] Sherman from Virginia Tech – I know [wide receivers] coach [Scott] Turner’s been in from Pitt a few times, West Virginia’s staff – they’ve had their recruiting guys from the area and their O-line coaches [visited] a couple times. All those schools have been stopping in are real impressed,” he confirmed, adding that the Alabama, Rutgers, North Carolina and Penn State staffs “really want [Smith].”
With so many colleges competing to add Smith to their roster, Smith is really enjoying the recruiting process, according to his head coach. And thus far, he’s shown no inclination to his landing spot.
“He’s enjoying it. He’s kind of narrowed it down it to 10 or 15 schools. He’s got quite a bit of offers. He’s just trying to fit for him – academically and a coaching staff he really likes. Right now, he’s not really learning towards anybody. I know he’s looking to take some official [visits]. He’s from Long Island, so I don’t know if he’s looking more northeast,” Lurz said, adding that that may favor Rutgers or Penn State.
So what makes this four-star recruit so promising? Is it his versatility? His size? Or is it his overall athleticism? Lurz had nothing but the complements for his young star.
“He’s big and athletic. He’s 6-5, probably 285 [pounds] right now. [He] can move well, he’s got good feet, good balance, plays well with his hands, and for us, he does a good job playing left tackle and he bounces around the defensive line a little bit,” Lurz said.
Smith plays both left tackle and defensive line at Owings Mills. And while most schools are recruiting Smith as an offensive lineman, there are a few viewing him for the defensive side of the ball.
“When it comes to [Smith] playing offensive tackle, he’s hard to get around. He really puts up well in pass protection, his run blocking – he’s really quick off of the ball,” Lurz said, “Defensively, he can stay low and he has good hands. He usually can get into the backfield whenever he feels like it.”
But it’s important not to overlook Smith’s intangibles – his smarts, his leadership and ability to be a really likeable teammate. After all, a left tackle anchors the entire offensive line and protects the quarterback’s blindside – a position that not everybody is suited for.
“He’s an intelligent player. He can raise the level of competition with the guys at practice,” Lurz said. “He’s a stand up guy. He’s a leader on the field. He’s loose with the guys as far as he can kid around and joke, but he can be serious when needed.”
“He’s definitely become more of a vocal leader,” he added, explaining that he is constantly getting his teammates focuses, getting on teammates, challenging them in practice and helping them raise their game and their level of play.
Lurz pointed out that Smith’s recruit has essentially benefited the entire Eagles football team, mentioning that it has triggered a keener interest in the team on the part of his teammates. “[His teammates] are getting more excited to play [football] and play with [Smith]. It helps build the character of the team, and get their spirits up.”
And while Smith is not a one-man team, he can be a do-it-all player. Last season, he led his team in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks, which Lurz believes takes a lot of stress off of the linebackers and defensive backs.
As an offensive tackle, Lurz attributes Smith’s developing technique, aggressive nature, competitiveness and long arms to h is success. However, his coach feels he has yet to be really tested in their league, stating that some defensive ends don’t even bother to challenge Smith.
Of course, Smith has his flaws. But as you might expect, he’s working on them in his attempt to develop onto the best on-field product he can be. And despite the lack of competition he faces at Owings Mills, the hours he spends in the weight room and the camps he’s attended should really assist his transition to the collegiate level.
“He’s been hitting the weight room pretty hard since February. I think he’s going to continue with that, kind of get some bulk – get some raw strength and muscle behind him, develop that power,” Lurz said. “I think following him over the summer and doing some of those camps – as he gets adjusted to those guys with upper level talent, he’s really learning quick and handing it well.”
For Lurz, it would be no surprise to see his young, gifted lineman graduating from a top university four years from now. His combination of talent, intelligence and work ethic – it’s enough to think Smith can excel at college, and eventually, even the NFL.
“He’s got the natural, God-given ability and the desire to really [graduate college]. If he can stay healthy in college and hit the weights hard, put in the work with his coaches, I think it’s something he can reach,” Lurz said.